Starting with Vmware ESXi

What I’ve learned while working with Vmware ESXi last week

  • Installations is a breeze “as long as your hardware is supported”
    • For fun I tried to install it on a low end machine with an amd duron processor, didn’t want to install.
    • Didn’t support any linksys, dlink and realtek network cards I threw at it. You’re best of with broadcom or intel cards.
    • Vmware esx io guide (google it) has a list of supported storage and network hardware.
    • If your hardware is not on that list, you’re out of luck. In the Vmware IO support document, they mention the option to modify linux device drivers and compile them against the vmkernel.
      I didn’t find any documentation on this subject,  so good luck pulling this of 🙂
    • Installation doesn’t ask many difficult questions, so really has an appliance feel to it.
  • Interface: vmware infrastructure client or vmware infrastructure cli tools
    • VI client does not give you much opportunity for troubleshooting
    • Uploading stuff is not intuitive at all, there should have been a big button “UPLOAD HERE”
      instead you have to drill down some menu and then double click tiny icon “storage” which doesn’t even seem clickable. That brings up a clumsy upload screen (eg you can create folders but not rename or remove them,…)
  • With a little hack you can enable ssh access
    • gives you a busybox shell
    • ability to upload stuff with scp
    • interesting commands (vmfstools, lspci, esxcfg-nics, …)
  • Machines created with vmware server or workstation won’t boot out of the box,
    • You need to convert them with vmware converter, conversion process takes long. It converts + uploads the image to ESXi server in one step.
  • ESXi doesn’t support IDE controllers in guest OS’es.
    This mean if you’ve made a VM in virtual server or workstation,  with a virtual ide drive, you’re screwed. Not entirely, you can add a scsi controller and convert ide disk to scsi one, and add the correct driver to the virtual OS.
    But it’s frustrating work that could have been avoided if only vmware had added ide support to esxi, just like they do in all their other products.
  • ESXi doesn’t officialy support “growable”/expandable virtual disks
    Instead if you create a disk or import one, it creates a preallocated disk.  For example you’ve created a VM with a growable/expandable disk of 150GB, but only 4GB is used. When importing this VM, ESXi will turn the 4GB into a monstrous 150GB vmdk file.
    There is a way around this, using the vmfstools command (using the unsupported ssh, or maybe also through the cli tools but didn’t test that). With that tool you can create a new disk or convert an existing disk to a expandable/growable disk using the “-d thin” option.

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